The end and/or demise of The Federation brewery Dunston came about under Heinekens watch at the end of May 2010, prior to 2004 known as The Northern Clubs Federation Brewery. Scottish & Newcastle confirmed (April 2010) they would cease brewing Newcastle Brown Ale at Federation Brewery Dunston, Gateshead. This signalled the end of brewing ale in the region which had been ongoing for 82 years. Operations were to be transferred to Tadcaster’s John Smiths Brewery. The Scottish & Newcastle board had recommended the takeover by Heineken and Carlsberg and On 31st March 2008 shareholders approved the takeover. The acquisition (£7.8 million) was completed on 29th April 2008.
However these more recent events should not overshadow the efforts, toil and creativity of the preceding years 1919 through 2004. The Federation Brewery was operated by working men for and on behalf of North-east England clubs. The Club and Institute Union was founded in 1862 by The Rev. Henry Solly. A true advocator of community and club work, along with working class political rights. Also worth remembering that Federation Brewery brewed beer for the CIU up until 2004. It is indeed ironic that The Federation Brewery met their end at the hands of corporates. Considering that the birth of The Federation Brewery came about in 1919 as a result of ruthless profiteering by brewers and a ‘corporate mentality’.
After the 1st world war malt and hops saw rationing so brewers focused on supplying their own clubs. Therefore beer they were supplying to others was watered down. The government during the 1st World War had also significantly increased taxes on alcohol. To compound matters the price of a pint had almost doubled while strength (OG) had gone in the opposite direction. Notably a bottle of whiskey had also risen five fold from 1914 to 1918. These brewers were raking in vast profits while also charging the full excise duty. Following the end of the 1st World War the strength of beer recovered slowly while high taxes remained in place. Alcohol strengths were lowered during the war supposedly to help with the war effort.
This ‘ruthless profiteering’ of the brewers saw the birth of Federation Brewery in 1919. However their first attempt ended in disaster after purchasing a site in Alnwick only to discover an unstable building and brewing vessels rotting on the inside. Thereafter followed the purchase of a brewery closer to hand and purchased JH Graham’s plant in Newcastle. Brewing started in 1921 and success followed enabling a move in 1931 to larger premises at John Buchanan’s brewery, Hanover Square. There followed a further move to Dunston in 1980 and home to award winning ales such as LCL Pils which was judged best bottled lager in the world in 1987.
Thereafter in 1998 judged one of the top 3 premium draught lagers in the world at the Brewing Industry International Awards. The brewery was also awarded a bronze medal for it’s Angel Ale in the Beauty of Hops Competition 2002. Angel Ale was hoppy and could be served in Champagne flutes. In it’s heyday (2005) Federation Brewery Dunston produced 10,000 barrels a week. Scottish and Newcastle took over the Federation brewery, purchasing the plant in 2005 for £7.2m while merging the staff. The purchase creating Newcastle Federation Breweries. However there was much consternation about the broon leaving the Toon. Scottish & Newcastle had to fight to move bottling of Newcastle Brown Ale across the river. They successfully revoked a European Protected Geographical Indication Order, meaning Newcastle Brown Ale could only be brewed in Newcastle.
The move to Dunston though would only last for a further 5 years. The Federation Brewery produced its last bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale in 2010. The 17 acre Dunston site was sold in September 2012 for £3 million to Intu. The site had been on the market for over a year. The sale was inclusive the Lancastrian Suite, the brewery site and a warehouse.